John Getz, who plays Joe Sr. on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, shares fond memories of the ’80s and talks about his character’s relationship with his son, Joe MacMillan.
Q: You appeared in Mad Men Season 2, Episode 5 “New Girl.” Were you excited to work on another AMC series?
A: Yeah, the quality of the show is so good and the network sets a certain tone. It’s a pleasure.
Q: What was your favorite thing about the ‘80s? Do you have any fond memories of that time?
A: I spent half of the ‘80s living in New York, doing a Broadway show, I got married, I bought a sailboat and traveled, I had a child… I have wonderful memories of the ‘80s — but the most exciting ones I couldn’t tell you about without revealing some terrible stories about people!
Q: What kind of advice would you give Joe MacMillan if you were really his father?
A: I’ve been a parent too many times to think that giving advice to your children is a worthwhile thing. The only advice you give is the advice they reject. [Laughs]
Q: Joe Sr. mentions knowing Bill Gates. Is there anyone in the tech field that you admire personally?
A: I admire the engineers. I’m interested in the people who make these tools and all the individuals who build the machinery.
Q: Joe Sr. was recruited to work on the Mark I at IBM. Did you know anything about the machine or company prior to shooting?
A: One of my agents — the son of an IBM executive — lived around the world and shared a young man’s view of seeing these guys in suits and ties. That was my little, third-hand connection with it.
Q: Do you think the fact that Joe Sr. works at IBM creates even more tension between him and Joe MacMillan? How so?
A: The way I read it is that IBM, along with my character, is Joe MacMillan’s parent that he feels betrayed by. You very much feel in the first episode that he’s looking to get back at his father and IBM represents that in a lot of ways. It’s a father-son battle.
Q: You were in The Social Network, about how Facebook gained its popularity. Did you find any similarities as you worked on this show in terms of storyline, innovation and entrepreneurship?
A: Everything moves quickly in these fields. There’s a great deal of competition about new technology and new ideas that a lot of people desired to claim. There’s a sense of ego and ownership of ideas with no real, sure sense of what it would mean in the future.
Q: You also appeared in the comedy, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. How did the workplace on that production compare to a drama such as this one?
A: They’re totally different. Something like Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is a bit of a playground. It’s a little bit like doing a sitcom and the job is to make each other laugh. The skills aren’t all that different — you have to pay attention to the other actors and give everybody room. The tone of the piece being more casual makes the downtime onset more casual; there’s sort of a shambling looseness that you feel afterwards. There’s a kind of tension on Halt and Catch Fire that calls for a fierce concentration. It’s filled with real power.